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LEROY — Heading into Friday night’s matchup with LeRoy, the Fisher softball team knew it would have its hands full going up against ace pitcher Marissa Adams.
That came to fruition as the Panthers’ senior controlled the game from start to finish, tossing a no-hitter in a 3-0 win and coming within just one hit batsman of completing a perfect game in a dominant performance.
“We’re just kind of in a funk here, offensively, and Marissa’s a really good pitcher,” Fisher coach Ken Ingold said. “I thought her location was great. We didn’t strike out a lot, but we did not get the good part of the bat on the ball, and that’s a sign of a great pitcher.”
Adams got some help from her offense, which plated a run in the third before tallying another in the fifth when Skielyr Trenkle ripped a deep RBI double and Kelly Smith’s shallow single gave the Panthers a 3-0 lead. Molly White then made a nice catch at second base for the final out to preserve the no-hitter for Adams, who has been dealing all year long — and didn’t even know she was throwing a no-no.
“I had no idea. No clue. I was just going,” Adams said. “I was shocked. I didn’t expect it.”
Adams is no stranger to tossing no-no’s. She has thrown some in the past, and this was her second no-hitter this season. And, typically, Adams is well aware of the numbers, but this time she was in the dark — which might have been for the best.
“Usually I know (I’m throwing a no-hitter) around the fourth or fifth inning, and I get really nervous and blow it,” Adams said with a laugh. “So it’s probably a good thing I didn’t know. I didn’t have to think about it. I was just worried about throwing the ball to my catcher.”
And there was some added motivation for the senior going into the matchup with a Fisher club that knocked the Panthers out of the postseason the last three seasons.
“Us seniors met before the season started, and our goal was to beat Fisher,” Adams said. “That was our No. 1 goal. Just a rivalry thing. We wanted to get it back for last year. It was a revenge game, for sure.”
“It feels good to get that monkey off our back,” Hageman said. “They’re a great program, and they’ve had our number. They’re unbelievably talented and very well-coached. You look at the schedule they play, and they’re never out of a game. I love watching (Fisher starting pitcher Sydney) Eichelberger throw the ball, and (Becca) Clanton’s one of the better catchers we’ve seen. They’re a good group. I know (Ingold) has said he’s a little frustrated with their offense, but they’ll come around and be just fine. Hopefully we get a chance to see each other again.
“It’s not an animosity thing. It’s not a dislike thing. It’s just that they’ve beaten us, and any time you have kids who are competitive — and these kids are competitive — you feel like you owe them one. I think the world of Coach Ingold. He’s been great to me ever since I got into softball. It’s always fun to play them, and I think our girls treat it that way too.”
The Bunnies (10-8, 3-2 Heart of Illinois Conference) suffered their third straight loss of the week with the defeat, despite getting a great performance from their sophomore Eichelberger.
“I also thought Sydney threw one of her better games because this LeRoy team is a really good hitting team, and she had really good velocity and a lot of strikeouts,” Ingold said.
It wasn’t just the revenge factor the Panthers (14-2, 3-0) salivated over moments after the game. Taking down a Bunnies team that was once ranked No. 8 in Class 1A this year by the Illinois Coaches Association was a great barometer for a LeRoy club — currently ranked No. 11 in 1A — that has state aspirations.
Adams said Hageman measured the 58.7-mile distance between LeRoy and the Eastside Centre in East Peoria — site of the state finals — on Google Maps. Adams and her five senior teammates made a run to state in eighth grade, and they now believe they are capable of stringing postseason victories together and making that short trek following this win over last season’s fourth-place 1A finishers.
“(This win) makes the end game realistic. We know (making it to state) is possible,” Adams said. “That’s one of our goals this year, and after getting this win, it makes it that more realistic.”
After a 10-2 win over Monticello last Monday, the Bunnies dropped three consecutive games.
Last Tuesday, the Bunnies fell to Tri-Valley in a hard-fought 3-1 road loss to a Vikings club that is ranked No. 15 in the Class 2A Illinois Coaches Association poll.
Last Wednesday, Fisher fell, 7-6, to Villa Grove/Heritage after the Bunnies held a 6-5 advantage in the seventh and allowed a pair of runs to come across in the inning.
Kylie Terven’s walk-off single on Monday ended the Bunnies’ losing skid in an 8-7 win over Lexington.
Another tough task is at hand today (April 19), when Fisher welcomes in Heyworth to Kellar Field. The Hornets are ranked No. 15 in 1A and are one of the favorites atop the loaded HOIC.
Contact Zack Carpenter at email@example.com and on Twitter @ZCarp11.